Morphean CEO, Rodrigue Zbinden, looks at the role of hosted security and AI in today’s smart buildings and cities, leading to wider benefits for its people.

The pandemic has been a major contributing factor to the acceleration of the digital transformation agenda, underpinned by cloud technology that kept businesses afloat and people connected. Within smart environments cloud facilitates the gathering of data from a wealth of network connected sensors and devices to generate actionable data to help solve real-world problems and, ultimately, improve the quality of citizens’ lives. And it is here that hosted physical security solutions can offer many benefits to the designers and builders of smart city environments, with the combination of AI and analytics producing powerful insights with many benefits from a security perspective and beyond.

The evolution of surveillance and access control

Traditional CCTV was historically a standalone, analogue system, and access control required direct human intervention to control access points. By contrast, video surveillance as-a-service (VSaaS) and access control as-a-service (ACaaS) are fully automated, cloud-based intelligent security solutions, offering many benefits that ideally suit them to today’s smart environments. Consider a busy office environment where an access control solution that is linked to HR staff records can check the swipe of an access card or use of a QR code against staff data. A surveillance camera provides secondary authentication and any attempt at unauthorised entry triggers an automated alert to notify security.

This integration of physical technology and cloud connectivity proves a powerful combination and also facilitates remote management of premises. When many buildings were left vacant during multiple lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, or manned by only essential key workers, security and operations teams benefitted from having on-site visibility through remote management of sites. This removed the need to contravene social distancing and lockdown regulations, with data from the access control and video surveillance systems viewed on a mobile device and providing an overarching view of the environment.

Unlocking operational insights

VSaaS and ACaaS are capable of producing powerful insights, based on the data they capture and process. Such insights offer a compelling reason to adopt such solutions, with the possibilities for use spanning industries and sectors; ideal for implementation within smart building design. In the modern, intelligent office environment, video surveillance technologies can be used to create a competitive advantage by understanding working preferences or how employees move around the building, derived from a combination of access control and video data. The resulting intelligence may influence hot desking and home working policies, or the introduction of energy efficient lighting applications.

Elsewhere, on a busy retail park, sensors installed at store entrance points can keep a log of the number of people within the building at any time. This technology has proven invaluable during Covid and serves as an example of the system’s many benefits beyond security. As part of a future-proof solution, this functionality is readily available, should it be required if and when Covid infection rates again begin to rise. From an operations perspective, inside the store, data obtained from surveillance cameras and combined with access control information from the stock room, allows facilities and operations managers to make decisions around product placement, the allocation of staff, and a number of other factors which can help improve marketing and productivity.

Smarter traffic management and intelligent logistics

The application and benefits of hosted security technologies have uses across the entire length and breadth of the city environment, including its many modes of public transport. Intelligent analytics can be used to improve operations across a small fleet of vehicles or an entire transport hub. Sensors and devices can be integrated on buses and trains to provide instant images and video footage to control centre personnel, while proactive intruder and loitering alarms employed at busy stations and depots, can deter suspected troublemakers before an incident occurs. Occupancy or people counting technology provides insights which can be used to increase or decrease security provision according to the amount of footfall, or to more effectively manage queuing customers during busy periods.

Numberplate recognition technology, connected to the same system, can be used to monitor traffic, detecting stolen vehicles or identifying vehicles that are moving erratically and causing concern. This technology can be used to control the admission of vehicles to the city’s busy logistics and distribution warehouses. Here, collections and deliveries can be scheduled and automatically processed using a mixture of cameras and sensors to facilitate the allocation of smart delivery bays, the movement of vehicles around the site, and to provide clarity and precise timing to ensure more streamlined operations and maximum productivity.

A business model for a smarter future

One of the key benefits of implementing VSaaS and ACaaS, is its ability to facilitate simple customisation and provide a flexible, scalable solution to meet evolving requirements. VSaaS and ACaaS are offered ‘as-a-service’, meaning a move toward an operational expenditure model, rather than one based on upfront capital outlay. The as-a-service model includes all-inclusive software updates and firmware upgrades for a convenient monthly payment, so the system is always up-to-date and always online. This removes the need for costly maintenance or disruption to operations.

VSaaS and ACaaS have great potential to be implemented right at the core of intelligent building design and smart cities planning. Factoring in such systems right from the outset will provide enhanced protection while unlocking multiple benefits relating to the unlocking of data-driven insights to streamline business operations across the city. VSaaS and ACaaS can bring a peace of mind that comes from being well prepared to face any challenges that might lie ahead.